The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps

by A. Orange

Chapter 4:
The Cult Characteristics of the Oxford Groups



Frank Buchman and his Oxford Groups and MRA displayed many of the characteristics that are common to cults — any cults, religious or otherwise. We have already touched on the firstthe Guru is always right. No matter what the leader says or how crazy it sounds, the leader is always right. Nobody dares to contradict or criticize the leader. It just isn't done.

We have also already seen some more:



Frank Buchman's Oxford Group and MRA routinely claimed that they had the only answer, and that they were the only way.

God-controlled supernationalism is the only sure foundation for world peace.
Frank Buchman, speaking at Zürich, Switzerland, 6 October 1935,
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 50.

Only Moral Re-Armament can bind the nations together.
Frank Buchman, speaking at Interlaken, Switzerland, 10 September 1938,
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 108.

      It is one thing to say that God-control is the only true policy. It is another thing to make it a reality in the life of a nation.   ...
      It is the super-statesmen who make God-control their program, who will solve the ills of mankind and usher in lasting peace.   ...
      Statesmen everywhere are becoming convinced that this is the only lasting program...
Frank Buchman, speaking at Geneva, Switzerland, 15 September 1935, quoted in
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 112.

"God alone can change human nature."
Frank Buchman, quoted in Britain and the Beast, Peter Howard, 1963, page 108.

Only a great spiritual experience on the part of national leaders of every party, class and creed will ever make any world conference or any League of Nations a workable basis for bringing peace. Such efforts must be God-controlled. Mark you, there is no alternative.
Frank Buchman, speaking in a BBC radio broadcast, 27 November 1938,
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, pages 121.
(Notice that Bill Wilson learned the "spiritual experience" jargon from Frank Buchman, too.)

The only possible alternatives today are collapse or God-control. And collapse is simply the selfishness of all of us together. Collapse or God-control.
Frank Buchman, speaking in a transatlantic radio broadcast from London, 9 August 1936, quoted in
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 77.
(Notice Buchman's repeated use of the Either/Or propaganda technique: Give the audience only two extreme choices, and pressure them to choose between something very objectionable, or what Buchman wishes them to choose: "Mark you, there is no alternative. Collapse or God-control. War or Moral Re-Armament. Guidance or Guns.")

One year ago we met at Interlaken, Switzerland, under the threat of war. The thought that riveted the attention of the world at that time was "Guidance or Guns." The intervening months have only served to emphasize the truth of that alternative. It is clearer now than ever before that Moral Re-Armament is the essential foundation for any world settlement.
      The next step is for men and women in every nation to enlist in MRA for the duration.
Frank Buchman, speaking at the Second World Assembly for Moral Re-Armament, 22 July 1939,
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 144.

We will find our national security only in Moral Re-Armament.
Frank Buchman, speaking at the Second World Assembly for Moral Re-Armament, 22 July 1939,
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 145.

In 1934 and 1935, Buchman toured Europe. When he stopped off in Denmark, he declared:

The world needs a miracle. Miracles of science have been the wonder of the age. But they have not brought peace and happiness to the nations. A miracle of the spirit is what we need.
Frank Buchman, speaking at Kronberg, Denmark, Whit Sunday, 1935, quoted in
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 157.

  • That's a real non sequitur — some brain-damaged logic.
  • It isn't the duty of the "miracles of science" like penicillin to make the nations happy. It isn't that kind of a drug. (Nevertheless, penicillin often did make people happy when it saved them or their children from death.)
  • Light bulbs were invented to light the night, not to bring "peace and happiness to the nations."
  • And the purpose of radio was to broadcast information and music, not to bring "peace and happiness to the nations."
  • Frank Buchman was way off base when he demanded that science do everything from end the Great Depression to prevent World War Two — to "bring peace and happiness to the nations". Then Buchman implied that because science didn't do that, that superstitious, irrational Buchmanism was the only answer to all of the world's problems.

Geoffrey Williamson reported:

...America was a big place... and on the eve of his [Buchman's] departure after seven prosperous years, he said: "We are in a global work. MRA is the one hope of the world."
Inside Buchmanism: an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, page 139.

One famous follower, Joe Scott, said:

"The world is full of men who are bitter, who are creating a world without God. In the present struggle of ideologies Frank Buchman is meeting the issues head on. As we stand at the crossroads of history there is only one answer and Frank Buchman has the answer."   ...
      "The only adequate answer to the hate in the world is Frank Buchman's philosophy of Moral Re-Armament."
Frank Buchman's Secret, Peter Howard, pages 89-90.

Other Buchmanites declared that MRA was "the ideology that alone can save the world from Communism."93 And the Buchmanite Roger Hicks declared,

Industry is coming to realise that unless it supports MRA, there will be nothing left for it to support.
The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament, Tom Driberg, page 149.

R. C. Mowat's pro-MRA book declared:

Divine guidance is the only practical politics.
The Message of Frank Buchman, R. C. Mowat, page 16.

And:

"When God has control, a nation finds her true destiny. Only a God-controlled nation can lead the world into sanity and peace."(64) This is the only way in which peace will be secured. "World peace will only come through nations which have achieved God-control."(60)
The Message of Frank Buchman, R. C. Mowat, pages 22-23.
The "(60)" and "(64)" refer to pages 60 and 64 of the book of Frank Buchman's speeches, Remaking the World.

So a small but global conspiracy of religious believers — i.e.: Moral Re-Armament — is the only way to save the world...

While he was defending British imperialism in India, Peter Howard, Buchman's disciple who took over the leadership of Moral Re-Armament after Buchman's death, wrote:

Sir Sikander Hyat Khan, when Premier of the Punjab, declared publicly that the spirit of change is the beacon light in a dark world. That whether Britain retains or relinquishes her interest there, M R A holds the only answer to the problems of India.
Ideas Have Legs, Peter Howard (1946), page 149.

A. J. Russell reported that Frank Buchman and his followers had a panacea:

As Hugh Redwood has it: they were out to change lives on a colossal scale as the one solution of every world problem. [Italics in the original.]
For Sinners Only, A. J. Russell, (Harper & Brothers, New York and London, 1932), page 20.

Two life-long Buchmanites declared:

MRA points the way. It is God's answer for this generation.
Moral Re-Armament: What Is It?, Basil Entwistle and John McCook Roots, pub. 1967, page 127.

In 1936, an election year in the U.S.A., Buchman said in a radio broadcast from Philadelphia:

Have you ever thought where America's real safety lies? America's safety lies in God-control.
      God-controlled individuals, God-controlled homes, God-controlled schools, God-controlled industry, God-controlled politics, God-controlled nations. This means that everybody takes his orders from God.
...
      God is the person that the American voter has got to reckon with in the coming election. The real question is, "Will God control America?"
Frank Buchman, speaking in a radio broadcast on the NBC network from Philadelphia, 19 June 1936, quoted in
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, pages 68 and 71,
and
Inside Buchmanism: an independent inquiry into the Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament, Geoffrey Williamson, page 205.

And Marcus Bach reported:

On June 4, 1938, while two thousand of his followers gathered at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, he [Buchman] telephoned from London, "America must re-arm spiritually or all is lost!"
      On the night of May 15, 1939, fifteen thousand gathered at Madison Square Garden to see pageantry, hear speeches, and listen to transatlantic telephone messages from London believers who said, "Moral Re-Armament is the only hope."
They Have Found A Faith, by Marcus Bach, page 126.

In a rousing open-air meeting five thousand Groupers heard Frank say:
      "Civilization is tottering on the brink of collapse. Only the God-controlled process can save the world from sin, war, poverty, and all other current evils."
They Have Found A Faith, by Marcus Bach, page 149.



The claims of Buchman's followers that the Oxford Group or Moral Re-Armament was the only way segued right into common cultish claims of "We Are Special", and under-handed attacks on other religions. The Buchmanites claimed that only they were "sane" and doing the will of God; and only Buchmanites were "closely in touch with God", and listening to God, and Frank Buchman called those who had not joined his cult "pagans".

The Oxford Group's aim ever since the last war has been to give a whole new pattern for statesmanship and a whole new level of responsible thinking — faculties only given to men who are living under God's guidance, who are changed through daily contact with God and through daily obedience to God.
Frank Buchman, speaking at the First World Assembly for Moral Re-Armament, at Interlaken, Switzerland, 2 September 1938, quoted in
Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 157.
So, only those who practice Buchmanism get the special new mind-powers?

Frank Buchman felt that it was "natural" that he and his followers would end up running the world:

In inspired democracy "leadership goes to the spiritually fit", for "the people naturally choose as leaders those who are most clearly led by God." (108) It is "a new leadership, free from the bondage of fear, rising above personal and national ambition and responsive to the direction of God's will." (156) Such leaders are "super-statesmen who make God-control their programme." (112)
The Message of Frank Buchman, R. C. Mowat, page 16.
(The numbers in parentheses are page numbers in the book of Frank Buchman's speeches, Remaking the World.)

Likewise, the propaganda book Moral Re-Armament — What Is It? first declared that there is no dictatorship in Moral Re-Armament, and then, on the very same page, it says "Leadership goes to the morally and spiritually fit." In other words, to the leaders of Moral Re-Armament, who are allegedly more spiritual than anybody else.116

In addition, Buchmanites claimed that other religions were "meaningless":

"Religion never meant anything" that is what the Groupers say almost invariably.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), page 124.

Some admit that they have had a religious teaching as children, but that "it never meant anything"; others that they have had no teaching at all and so, of course, religion for them, too, "never meant anything". Others say that they have practiced religion to the extent of trying to do their best and going to church, but, once again, "it never meant anything".
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), page 124.

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous gave the same kind of testimony in the Big Book:
I had been brought up to believe in God, but I know that until I found this A.A. program, I had never found or known faith in the reality of God, the reality of His power that is now with me in everything I do.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 341.

And the Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Trustee Milton A. Maxwell quoted another A.A. member as saying:

I didn't know what peace of mind or serenity was until I found my own Higher Power...
An A.A. member, quoted in The Alcoholics Anonymous Experience: A Close-Up View For Professionals, Milton A. Maxwell, Ph.D., page 127.

And other A.A. members say,

I always believed in God, but could never put that belief meaningfully into my life. Today, because of Alcoholics Anonymous, I now trust and rely on God, as I understand Him...
Daily Reflections; A Book of Reflections by A.A. members for A.A. members, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1990, January 1, page 9.

Notice the contradiction: The Alcoholics Anonymous true believers brag that A.A. is much better than the other religions, but they also deny that A.A. is a religion:

Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religious organization.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson, Foreword, page xx.

Frank Buchman denigrated other churches:

But it is surprising that Dr. Buchman should frequently take the opportunity of making gibes at the Church. When convert after convert had testified at a Sunday evening meeting, I have heard him say from the platform, "Look at that now! Any other institution would be glad to have that result in a year. We have achieved it in three days!"
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), page 108.

"When the Churches fail — God sends a man," writes one of these [disciples of Buchman], and we gather that in this case the man is Dr. Frank Buchman who is given a place beside St. Francis (who loved the poor!), Martin Luther and John Wesley.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), page 108.

(Who says that the churches had failed? Failed how? Failed to do what?)

And Rev. Richardson reported:

...the leaders of the Groups "will brook no criticism, and rule it out as 'unguided'" (The Record, Nov. 18, 1932). "This refusal to tolerate criticism," observes the Bishop of Durham, "is the more indefensible in the case of the Groupists since they exhibit in their judgement of the older forms of Christianity a severity which is neither charitable nor just" (The Group Movement, 2nd Ed., Part I, pp. 35-36).
The Groups Movement, The Most Rev. John A. Richardson, page 19.
Morehouse Publishing Co., Milwaukee, Wis., 1935.

Such criticism of older churches shows the adolescent character of the Oxford Groups. Frank Buchman's "movement" began with groups of college students, and Buchmanism took on an adolescent attitude which it never outgrew. Just like an angry teenager who declares that his parents don't know anything, Buchman's young followers declared that the old churches were ineffective, meaningless, and useless, and those followers were quick to assume that they had something brand new which the old fogies were too dim-witted to see.

The Groupist ignores the history of Christianity, and regards the system of the Church as too apparently ineffective to command acceptance. He moves at a stride from the Age of Apostles to the present time, and assumes that the centuries of Christian experience have nothing to teach him. Surely this is a position which cannot seriously be defended.
The Oxford Groups; The Charge Delivered At The Third Quadrennial Visitation Of His Diocese Together With An Introduction, Herbert Hensley Henson, D.D. (the Bishop of Durham), 1933, page 28.

The 'Groupists' are curiously unconscious of previous essays in extra-ecclesiastical revivalism, inspired like their own by the ideal of a restored 'first-century Christianity,' and also finding in the New Testament at once their credentials and their models. The claim of originality is of course characteristic of new movements... Youth tends ever to megalomania.
The Oxford Groups; The Charge Delivered At The Third Quadrennial Visitation Of His Diocese Together With An Introduction, Herbert Hensley Henson, D.D. (the Bishop of Durham), 1933, page 30.

Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, had friends in the Oxford Group. He wrote about Lord Salisbury:

Towards the end of his life he was somewhat attracted by the movement led by Dr. Frank Buchman, that for no good reason arrogated to itself the title of 'Oxford Group'. I do not doubt that this evangelistic venture has brought comfort and assurance to many people, who would say that it had been the means of changing their entire life by opening for them a door of direct approach to God. For many to whom the regular rule and worship of the Church had made little appeal, or who had let go their faith, the Group appeared to carry a message of hope, the value of which was not to be under-rated. But to the ordinary practising Christian, on the other hand, an irritating feature of the Group has been the assumption on the part of many of those who were caught up in it that they had discovered something entirely new, whereas there was nothing whatever in the movement that was not readily available to all Christians in far more just balance through the Christian religion.
Fulness Of Days, The Earl of Halifax, page 155.

After too many "House Parties", Marjorie Harrison wrote:

Is religion in all its aspects nothing but a drug to man's intelligence?   ...
      During a House Party you get a little tired of such expressions as "this crowd" and "a quality of life" and "this fellowship", and the word "vision" is worked to death.
      "And then I came in touch with this crowd. They had something I lacked. Their quality of life made me decide to surrender my life to God. Now I live my life under guidance. Since I have been in this fellowship I have had a vision of how I may change my home and my college...." I, I, I, I, ad nauseam. That is the jargon. It is most unconvincing.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), page 128.

Time after time you hear new converts saying that they were first attracted to the Group because "these people have something that I lacked". This little something some others haven't got is usually described as happiness or joy. The truth is that that "little something" is a happy capacity for a facile credulity. The majority of those who are attracted by the teaching have this capacity in some measure, whether they are aware of it or not. Otherwise there would be a very small Group and a much better one.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), page 86.

Bill Wilson wrote the same kind of things about the joy of membership in an A.A. group:

Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends — this is an experience you must not miss.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, William G. Wilson, page 89.

Many a man, yet dazed from his hospital experience, has stepped over the threshold of that home into freedom. Many an alcoholic who entered there came away with an answer. He succumbed to that gay crowd inside, who laughed at their own misfortunes and understood his. Impressed by those who visited him at the hospital, he capitulated entirely when, later, in an upper room of this house, he heard the story of some man whose experience closely tallied with his own. The expression on the faces of the women, that indefinable something in the eyes of the men, the stimulating and electric atmosphere of the place, conspired to let him know that here was haven at last.
A.A. Big Book, William G. Wilson, Chapter 11, A Vision For You, page 160.

Bill Wilson clearly described three common cult characteristics there:

  1. Surrender to the cult
    • "He succumbed to that gay crowd inside".
    • "He capitulated entirely".
    Since when do you "succumb" and "capitulate" to a cure for a disease? (You don't.)
    Bill Wilson was inviting the new prospects to abandon their reservations, dump their logical thinking minds into the trash can, and "surrender utterly" to the cult, pure and simple. Like Step Three says: We "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him." Turn our wills over? God does not demand that you surrender your will to Him and become a mindless slave without any will of your own. Brainwashers, slave owners, military drill sargeants, fascists, and cult leaders do that.

  2. Giggly wonderfulness
    • "Life will take on new meaning."
    • "...the stimulating and electric atmosphere..."
    • "...that gay crowd inside, who laughed at their own misfortunes..."
    Oh yes, it is just so much fun to be a member of a cult. It's all so wonderful.

  3. Personal testimonies of earlier converts, who tell stories of their wonderful conversions, of how the cult totally changed their lives for the better, to convince newcomers that they too should surrender their minds and join the cult.

Likewise, Marty Mann wrote about "the fellowship":

This wasn't "religion" — this was freedom! Freedom from anger and fear, freedom to know happiness and love.
      ... I found I had come home at last, to my own kind.
The Big Book, 3rd edition, Marty Mann, the story Women Suffer Too, page 228.

Another A.A. member said of a non-member:

You poor guy. I feel so sorry for you. You're not an alcoholic. You can never know the pure joy of recovering within the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, page 334.

And Bill continued:

You say, "...I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?"
      Yes, there is a substitute, and it is vastly more than that. It is a fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship, and so will you.
A.A. Big Book, William G. Wilson, Chapter 11, A Vision For You, page 152.

"Life will take on new meaning"?
"Life will mean something at last"?
As if life has no meaning outside of the "fellowship" of a cult religion? Don't love, marriage, children, work, accomplishments, health or sickness, life and death mean anything?

Well, Dr. Alexander Lowen wrote:

Narcissists are more concerned with how they appear than what they feel. Without a solid sense of self, they experience life as empty and meaningless.
Narcissism, Denial of the True Self, Alexander Lowen, M.D., page 76.



Another common cult characteristic that Frank Buchman and his group showed was the inability to tolerate even the slightest criticism. An MRA book published in 1954 went so far as to declare that critics of MRA were immoral:

Moral Re-Armament cannot be honestly opposed on intellectual grounds because it is basic truth. MRA is built on incontrovertible moral truth, whose effectiveness, however it is applied throughout the world, cannot be gainsaid. So opposition to Moral Re-Armament has special significance. It always comes from the morally defeated.
Remaking Men, by Paul Campbell, M.D., and Peter Howard, page 66.

In his charge against the Oxford Groups, Dr. Herbert Hensley Henson, the Bishop of Durham, quoted Rev. C. M. Chavasse...

'I have found many of the rank and file of Group members eager and teachable. But not the leaders. They will brook no criticism and rule it out as "unguided". Even if the invitation to "come in and change us" is accepted, it is soon found that real criticism is resented — as many have discovered to their great unhappiness. This is especially the case at Oxford where the Groups are established as a cult, and strongly organized with a headquarters and a band of full-time workers; and where, what one is bound to term, their intolerance and exclusiveness is a strong and distressing feature. ... and the result of experience would seem to show that the circumference of the Movement is much sounder than the centre; so that the deeper you penetrate into its system the more unhappy you feel.'
The Oxford Groups; The Charge Delivered At The Third Quadrennial Visitation Of His Diocese Together With An Introduction, Herbert Hensley Henson, D.D. (the Bishop of Durham), 1933, page 35.

That is also a good description of most cults in general: They often have a pleasant, inviting, and attractive exterior, and appear to be good and virtuous and spiritual and admirable to the public, but the core is rotten. The more one gets into a cult, the worse it gets. After a new member joins, he finds the wonderful publicly-advertised virtues negated by more sinister teachings. As Daniel Shaw observed,

"Once membership is established, the messages are switched to ever-increasing demands for obedience, submission and dependence. The actual value system of a cult is often the antithesis of the system it advertises."
Traumatic Abuse in Cults; An Exploration of an Unfamiliar Social Problem, Daniel Shaw, CSW.

The Bishop Dr. Henson also wrote:

Before proceeding to consider the distinctive procedures of the 'Groups' movement, there is one general characteristic to which I must direct your attention, and which must certainly arouse the gravest misgivings in the mind of every considering and instructed Christian. I mean, its attitude of absolute authority and arrogant superiority towards all who dissent from its claims or disapprove its methods. This characteristic is, of course, a familiar mark of sectarianism. The early Quakers were carried to strange excesses by their persuasion that they were divinely inspired. They also faced their fellow Christians in the tone of men who had a unique and infallible assurance of truth, whose witness could only be rejected by those who were blinded by prejudice or enslaved by sin. Similarly, the 'Groupists' adopt a tone of absolute authority, and do not scruple to assume that criticism of their procedures can only issue from morally disqualified persons. An illustration is provided to my hand by a new volume written by a prominent leader of the Oxford 'Groupists', the Rev. Geoffrey Allen, Fellow and Chaplain of Lincoln College. I read this book with the more careful attention, since its author is one of those younger Oxford scholars whose work in theology and criticism justifies the largest hopes. Here is a book, I thought, which will be free from the vulgarity of popular journalism, such as marked Mr. Russell's deplorable volume, and will show no trace of the naïve arrogance of ignorant fervour which may be expected in the narratives of converts. Mr. Allen is possessed of considerable literary power, and whatever he writes is pleasant to read. But my satisfaction could go no farther. The book confirmed my worst fears. Its tone of assured infallibility revolted me. In the true spirit of fanaticism it disallows all criticism which is not conditioned by submission to the movement. In effect, it identifies 'Groupism' and Christianity so completely as to use with respect to the one that absolute language of Divine claim which belongs properly only to the other. A perusal of Groupist literature has compelled me to conclude that Mr. Allen is genuinely representative of the leaders of the movement. This attitude of absolute claim which admits of no alternative save complete acceptance is doubly regrettable. On the one hand, it ties the movement fast to its own errors, for infallibility always involves this consequence to all who are unwise enough to claim it that it prohibits reformation. On the other hand, it makes impossible that ultimate reconciliation of 'Groups' with the Church which every Churchman who recalls the dolorous history of previous separations would desire to effect.
The Oxford Groups; The Charge Delivered At The Third Quadrennial Visitation Of His Diocese Together With An Introduction, Herbert Hensley Henson, D.D., 1933, pages 33-34.

(Note that Rev. Geoffrey Allen, the enthusiastic young clergyman who wrote the "deplorable volume", changed his mind about the Oxford Groups in a few years' time, and broke away from the Groups.109)

The faithful Buchmanite Arthur James "A. J." Russell, who wrote two books of praise of Frank Buchman, complained in one of them about the criticism that the Oxford Group was receiving:

If you ask people to make radical changes in their lives and they don't obey, they must pick holes in you. As Canon Grensted has it: "When something like the Group comes along and suggests that God be put in the first place always, instead of tenth, and people find their disordered sentiments threatened, they naturally begin to feel annoyed."
For Sinners Only, A. J. Russell, pages 265-266.

A. J. Russell was actually so arrogant that he equated the Oxford Group Movement with God. Russell was really world-class arrogant. He declared that people who would not obey him and put the Oxford Group first in their lives were, in his mind, refusing to "put God in the first place", and that's why they criticized Frank Buchman and the Oxford Group.
(That's the propaganda trick of False Equality. Frank Buchman and his cult did not equal God. Refusal to obey A. J. Russell and Frank Buchman was not refusal to obey God.)

And that word "obey" is really something else. Apparently, Russell assumed that complete strangers were supposed to obey him and the other Oxford Group recruiters when they came around, presumably because the Groupists had orders straight from God and knew God's Will and knew what was best for everybody else, while the common rabble did not. (And once again, they used false equality — the recruiters would say that you should obey God, but they really expected you to obey them.) No wonder the Member of Parliament from Oxford, A. P. Herbert, said that "the Buchmanites' methods were fascist-like and their evangelists Nazi-like."

In the early days, before the London newspaper reporter A. J. Russell was "changed" into a true believer who never criticized Buchman, Russell wanted to write a series of neutral, balanced, articles about Buchmanism. Russell discovered that Frank Buchman would not tolerate even the slightest criticism of his movement:

...Mr. Russell went on to suggest that, as in the case of the "My Religion" series, readers should be invited to air their views for and against the Movement.
      "Oh dear, no!" said Dr. Buchman. He reinforced his own opinion — quite a sound opinion on the advantages of newspaper discussions — with the startling declaration that the Holy Spirit's guidance was against the scheme.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), page 119.

Likewise, Peter Howard, the fascist disciple of Frank Buchman who assumed the leadership of the Oxford Groups/MRA organization after Buchman's death, wrote:

...Christians forget that Christ was crucified not because he was wrong but because He was right. There was one of Christ's contemporaries who, while agreeing that the work being done was good, always disagreed with the methods and thought he could do things better. He was critical of the way money was spent, critical of the company Christ kept, critical of his comrades. His name was Judas.
      This is not to suggest that Buchman was like Christ or that all his critics are like Judas....
Britain and the Beast, Peter Howard, 1963, page 106.

Note the propaganda tricks of denial and reversal of reality. Peter Howard clearly suggested that Frank Buchman's critics were acting just like Judas, and then Howard immediately declared that he wasn't suggesting it.

Also notice the propaganda trick False Analysis of History. Jesus Christ was not crucified "because He was right"; He was killed because he upset, threatened, and scared the local established power figures, especially the Jewish church leaders, who feared that Jesus would both overthrow them and start a revolution that would cause the Romans to punish them all very harshly.

Peter Howard continued with his bitter complaints about criticism of MRA:

        So many people are snobs of intellect. They write well, make money, gain titles or preach splendidly but are helpless and barren when they meet a man in need. They shine before men but change nobody. They criticize those who have less polish and recognition than themselves, forgetting that the first journeymen of Christ were fishermen, shepherds and craftsmen of hand and heart, not crafty of head and great in human eyes.
        It is impossible in the space of this book to take up and refute all accusations and charges made against men and women of Moral Re-Armament. But many of them are self-contradictory and others are made with a shallowness of understanding or a denial of reason which makes them worthless.
Britain and the Beast, Peter Howard, 1963, page 112-113.

Peter Howard did not refute a single criticism of the Oxford Groups or Moral Re-Armament there. He just used the propaganda techniques Personal Attacks on Critics (Ad Hominem), Name Calling, anti-intellectual Appeal To Stupidity, and Hit-And-Run to try to dismiss all of the criticism that he and his fellow cult members were getting. Peter Howard launched an ad hominem attack on his critics, called them a variety of names, and accused them of being "polished snobs of intellect", and then ran away without actually answering any of the charges against the Oxford Groups, by claiming that the criticism wasn't worth refuting.

Peter Howard also used the propaganda trick of Unsubstantiated Inference, saying of his critics that "They shine before men but change nobody."
Well, neither did the Buchmanites. The Oxford Groups and Moral Re-Armament were notorious for not making any lasting changes in their converts. People would claim to be "changed" at a rally or house party, but were very soon back to their same old bad habits.

Marjorie Harrison spoke of the emotional appeal of Buchmanism to prospective new recruits, and the suppression of criticism:

The emotional appeal would have less influence if every attempt at intellectual honesty — called criticism by the Group — was not extinguished. Criticism from outside the Group cannot be prevented. It is combated not by a defence or an answer, but by an assumption of indifference. It is merely an assumption of indifference for criticism is desperately feared just as advertisement is welcomed. Within the Group criticism is absolutely forbidden.
        This is for an excellent reason. The insidiously harmful teachings cannot be defended. Stripped of these elaborations there would stand revealed the simple and sane teaching of Christianity: the Christianity that has been found difficult and not tried. Buchmanism has been tried and found easy and swallowed wholesale.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), pages 67-68.

(Notice that A.A. uses exactly the same "assumption of indifference" to criticism. A.A. leaders refuse to argue with critics, and claim that they have "no opinion" on "outside issues." And anything that they don't want to talk about is called an outside issue, no matter whether it is the rape of women in A.A., the immense A.A. dropout rate and failure rate, coercive recruiting, telling sick people not to take their medications, junior cult leaders setting up their own cults and exploiting newcomers, or the A.A. leaders stealing the money.)

She continued:

        Dr. Buchman carefully trains his followers to carry out his technique of revivalism. Several of the rules seem to have been made for the express purpose of side-tracking intelligent inquiry, the displacing of intellectual honesty by subversive emotional appeal and, above all the muffling-down of criticism. Two of his precepts are: "Avoid argument" and "Aim to conduct the interview yourself".
        The Movement sets itself like a blank wall against either criticism or advice. Its members are bristled against it even if it cannot be expressed. The audiences at the Central Hall meetings had no means of expressing politely any criticism...
        That worldly, but extremely shrewd weekly, The New Yorker, has described Buchmanism as "a form of evangelism which combines the advantages of mysticism, mesmerism, spiritualism, eroticism, psycho-analysis, and high-power salesmanship."
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), pages 33-34.

A House-Party audience is almost entirely composed of adherents to the Movement or those partially convinced. Buchman obviously does not expect anything but an assent to his demands, for if anyone asks so much as a question, he becomes flurried immediately. He shouts, blusters, ties himself into knots and is usually extricated by his followers. He is always evasive. A definite criticism voiced at a meeting spoils the meeting for him.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), page 114.

Likewise, contemporary clergymen wrote:

...the leaders of the Groups "will brook no criticism, and rule it out as 'unguided'" (The Record, Nov. 18, 1932). "This refusal to tolerate criticism," observes the Bishop of Durham, "is the more indefensible in the case of the Groupists since they exhibit in their judgement of the older forms of Christianity a severity which is neither charitable nor just" (The Group Movement, 2nd Ed., Part I, pp. 35-36).
The Groups Movement, The Most Rev. John A. Richardson, page 19.
Morehouse Publishing Co., Milwaukee, Wis., 1935.

Walter Houston Clark astutely attributed that thin-skinned attitude to Frank Buchman's "Guided By God" beliefs:

      In proportion as a person is sure that God is speaking to him clearly and distinctly so will he ascribe criticisms of his work to evil forces and feel himself persecuted. It is his simple view of the relation between God and man that makes Buchman so sure of the "Guidance" that comes to him in his "Quiet Time." This must be an important factor in the sense of persecution that one finds not only in him but among his followers.
The Oxford Group; Its History and Significance, Walter Houston Clark, page 111.

Indeed. If you are convinced that you are talking directly to God and getting your orders directly from Him, then someone who disagrees with you and opposes your activities must of necessity be evil and working for The Forces of Darkness. Why else, how else, could anyone possibly be opposed to your divine work? When you are absolutely certain that you are getting your instructions directly from God, that simply leaves no room for humility or tolerance of any other people's differing opinions or viewpoints.

Even a life-long believer in Frank Buchman's cult, T. Willard Hunter, candidly reported:


T. Willard Hunter as he appeared on stage in MRA theatrical productions in 1943
      In Frank's fellowship, there were plenty of internal, individual mea culpas. Indeed, assertions that "I'm wrong" were de rigueur for the MRA team person. "A small sense of sin means a small sense of Christ; a great sense of sin means a great sense of Christ." The line in the movie Love Story, "Love means you never have to say you're sorry," was opposite to the team approach. For labor-management problems and other conflicts, honest apology was "the high road to honest peace." One of the cleverest MRA songs to hit the stage was Blanton Belk and his sisters harmonizing of "Sorry is a magic little word."62 But this did not apply to the corporate entity, and certainly not to Frank Buchman. There was never any corporate confession of sin. All major decisions for decades, and a host of minor ones as well, were made by the leader. He was guided by God. Therefore to criticize aims and strategies of the force as a whole was to suggest that Frank's touch with the Almighty had on occasion been flawed. An[d] that was to think the unthinkable. If such a reflection should be shared on the inside, its author would be regarded as needing attention to his thinking or his piety, or both. If such questions were raised by someone on the outside, chances were good that the originator was either subversive or living an immoral life.

62 From the revue Ideas Have Legs, Washington, D.C., 1947.

World Changing Through Life Changing: The Story of Frank Buchman and Moral Re-Armament; A Thesis for the Degree of Master of Sacred Theology at Andover Newton Theological School, T. Willard Hunter, 1977, pages 70-71.

Newcomers and the rank and file members were expected to confess that they were guilty of everything imaginable, but Frank Buchman would never confess that he or the Oxford Groups or Moral Re-Armament had ever made any big, serious, fundamental errors. He couldn't, because he was supposedly under the infallible Guidance of God, every minute of his life. To admit that he had made mistakes would be to admit that he was not a perfect channel for the Voice of God.

That clearly demonstrates the first two rules of any cult:

  1. The guru is always right, and
  2. You are always wrong.


Marjorie Harrison described her experiences as a newcomer to the Oxford Group meetings:

...you are bound to fall under the spell of the most disarming friendliness that you have ever encountered. [It's called "love bombing".] The friendliness continues as long as you are a hearer of the word as interpreted by people anxious to add your soul's scalp to the rest of their collection.
      They will bear — for a little time — with some criticism. But if you fail to acquiesce in conviction and that fairly quickly, then you are no longer interesting, and in the end, you find yourself exhorted from the platform to "pack up your criticisms with your luggage and GO — you are of no use."
      One young man, at that last meeting of the Eastbourne House Party, stung by this, rose to his feet and, an almost lone critic in the midst of an audience composed of Groupers, or those sympathetic to the Movement, flung back in a few words the challenge of all those thousands of anxious and serious people who fail to see in the Group the answer to their own or the world's problems.
      "I have been afraid of God all my life," he said. "I have been hag-ridden by God. I came to learn. I cannot accept all your teaching, and so you tell me I am no use. You tell me to go. I will go."
      "Yes. Go!" said Frank from the platform. "Go and talk it over outside."
      And he went. He was the most desperately sincere, the most moving and the most convincing speaker I heard during the thirteen meetings of the Group that I attended during that House Party. Dr. Buchman told me he had sent back an apology. I hope he did nothing of the sort. The Group owed to him the deepest and humblest apology for his was the cry of a tormented soul. A thousand men and women would echo it. He was the only person in all the House Party who seemed to have suffered spiritual travail. "Religion never meant anything" that is what the Groupers say almost invariably. To this boy religion had obviously meant something. He had been "hag-ridden" by God. Religion had been a disrupting force and his life its battlefield. He did not want the joy and the fun and the thrill offered by the Group. He rejected the blatantly superstitious interpretation of the Guidance of God — and because he had courage and deep feeling, the Group told him to go. They had no use for him. He was followed from the hall by several young men who were prepared to "change" but not help him. But he had been publicly humiliated and his genuine desire for true guidance had been rejected.
      In that incident you see revealed the whole weakness of the Group.
Saints Run Mad; A Criticism of the "Oxford" Group Movement, Marjorie Harrison (1934), pages 123-125.



Another common bad characteristic of cults that Buchman's Groups displayed was dishonesty, deceit, and wild exaggeration of successes and praise, accompanied by minimization and denial of faults and criticism. Rev. John A. Richardson wrote:

I have said that there is no room for doubt that many lives are being transformed through the activities of the Groups Movement. It will not do, however, to accept at their face value all the jubilant reports of victories won that are trumpeted abroad with such persistent optimism. That notable victories have been won will not be denied, but it is quite certain that in their announcement there has been not seldom gross exaggeration. The fact is that the publicity work of the Movement is extraordinarily effective, and by its aid the achievements of the Groups has been widely heralded, while nothing has been said of their frequent failures. Miss Marjorie Harrison comments ironically upon that fact in her description of one of the gatherings of the Groups in London, of which she was an eye-witness. The Groups preach "'absolute honesty,'" she says, "and Dr. Buchman, standing on a platform, holds up a Canadian newspaper and draws attention to the streamer headlines in favour of the Group. He reads extracts; he reels off figures; he gives the impression that all Canada has been swept into the Movement. He does not show the other side of the picture. He is entirely one-sided. There is no mention of the scathing criticisms and denunciations that met the Group" (Saints Run Mad, p. 145).
      Speaking within my own knowledge, the Groups had recently a great campaign in St. John, N. B., for the success of which the most extravagant claims were made. Enormous crowds were naturally attracted to the meetings, and not a few individuals received spiritual help, who are today, I am sure, witnesses to the fact. It is undoubtedly true, however, that a vast number of those present at the various meetings were there out of curiosity alone, and remain untouched. Yet an official statement was sent through the press from one end of Canada to the other which was calculated to give the impression that the entire city, and other parts of the province, had been stirred to the very depths. It was a piece of flamboyant advertising for which there was absolutely no foundation in fact.
      Such cases of publicity exaggeration are, as I have said, not at all uncommon. Thus the Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., writes as follows in an article entitled, "The Church and the Oxford Group," The Living Church, Jan. 21, 1933: The reception which the Oxford Group had in Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto, can only be called in St. Paul's words a 'triumph in Christ.' Night after night, thousands of people came out to hear the simple message of witness from varied types." So far as the vast attendance at the meetings is concerned, the statement is, no doubt, entirely accurate. In view of the world-wide publicity given to the activities of the Movement, it could hardly be otherwise. When Mr. Shoemaker goes on, however, to quote with approval the statement of "a business man from Ottawa" that, as a result of the campaign, there were more Oxford Groups in that city than there were bridge parties, one may be pardoned for registering a doubt. For myself, I can only say that I have gone to some trouble to make inquiries in reliable quarters recently, and I find nothing to suggest that the effect of the campaign in Ottawa was of the revolutionary character claimed by Mr. Shoemaker.
      Credit has been claimed by the leaders of the Groups for the most striking achievements in the arena of political and public life. The world has repeatedly been told, for example, that the Groups brought peace and harmony out of political chaos and conflict in South Africa.   ...   [They didn't; see quotes below.]
      One would not impute deliberate misstatement, but there is little room to doubt that, in their enthusiasm, the leaders of the Groups are guilty of unpardonable exaggeration in the claims for success that they send out to the world. It is highly probable that Mr. Henry P. Van Dusen is not far from the truth when he says in his vivid study of Dr. Buchman in The Atlantic Monthly, July, 1934, that there is in him a "tendency, almost juvenile in its naïeveté, to see the virtues of his associates, the quality of their performance, and the significance of their achievements, somewhat out of true perspective. This tendency pervades the entire Movement, but it is a contagion caught from Mr. Buchman's own habitual attitude.
The Groups Movement, The Most Rev. John A. Richardson, pages 21-25.
Morehouse Publishing Co., Milwaukee, Wis., 1935.

And Maisie Ward wrote:

It would be a grave mistake to reckon the value of a spiritual movement merely by counting heads but M. Desplanques, while admitting fully the great impetus given by the movement to the lives of many, feels obliged to stress the fact that there is some unreality in the 'Advertisement' atmosphere which boasts of large scale conversions, while refusing to supply any figures at all. In America he compares the results in the larger universities to the temperature chart of a fever patient, so rapid are the rises and falls.
The Oxford Groups, Maisie Ward, page 27.

Dr. Herbert Hensley Henson, the Bishop of Durham, wrote:

      The 'Groupists' are curiously unconscious of previous essays in extra-ecclesiastical revivalism, inspired like their own by the ideal of a restored 'first-century Christianity,' and also finding in the New Testament at once their credentials and their models. The claim to originality is of course characteristic of new movements, and need express nothing worse than the pardonable self-delusion of enthusiasm. Youth tends ever to megalomania. Nevertheless megalomania is a perilous temper, and cannot wisely be left uncorrected. One previous essay is so recent in time, and so kindred in character, as to be fresh in our recollection.
      A few years ago much public attention was directed to the activities of the faith healer, Mr. [J. M.] Hickson. These were, he maintained, precisely as the Groupists maintain with respect to their own movement, an essay in first-century Christianity.   ...
      The parallel between Mr. Hickson and the Rev. Frank Buchman is not limited to their claim that they are reviving 'first-century Christianity'. Both build much on the results of their work. 'Groupism' is, in the Rev. S. M. Shoemaker's phrase, 'Religion that Works'. Mr. Hickson might have adopted the phrase. He was able to produce a list of witnesses not less impressive than those which are paraded by the 'Groupists'.   ...   In South Africa his success was reported to be not less impressive, and this is the more noteworthy since it is precisely in South Africa that the success of the 'Groups' is alleged to have been most astonishing. I observe with some interest that both Mr. Hickson and the 'Groupists' adduce the evidence of a Presbyterian clergyman, the Rev. E. Macmillan of Pretoria. He compared Mr. Hickson's mission to a 'spiritual earthquake', a new thing in his experience, 'more truly and deeply spiritual than the old-time evangelical revivals.'1 This was in 1922. In 1929 the same gentleman wrote with equal fervour about the mission of the 'Groupists'. He made, however, no mention of the 'spiritual earthquake' which, only seven years earlier, had stirred him so deeply. During the sessions of the Lamberth Conference in 1930 I asked several Australian and South African Bishops whether the results of Mr. Hickson's mission, to which such confident attestation had been given, had been as extensive and as permanent as might have been expected, but I found no reason for thinking that either the physical health or the moral level of the populations had been appreciably affected. What is the inference?
      We cannot surely be mistaken if we think that both Mr. Hickson's 'Faith-healing Mission' and Mr. Buchman's 'Groups' illustrate characteristics of sect-movements in every age, the tendency of enthusiasts to exaggerate the originality and the value of their own religious methods, and the facility with which good Christians, when they handle the New Testament, may be entangled in a literalism which is equally irrational and perilous. Mr. Hickson's book, Heal the Sick, published in 1924, should stand on the student's bookshelf alongside Mr. Russell's book, For Sinners Only, published in 1932. They are the latest descriptions we possess of a religious phenomenon which has been recurrent in Christian experience from the first. We may add that both books have secured a wide circulation.

1. Vide his letter quoted in Hickson's Heal the Sick.
[Heal the Sick, J. M. Hickson, Methuen & Co., 1924.]

The Oxford Groups; The Charge Delivered At The Third Quadrennial Visitation Of His Diocese Together With An Introduction, Herbert Hensley Henson, D.D., Bishop of Durham, 1933, pages 30-33.

Likewise, the Buchmanite Groups' grand claims of success in changing many tens of thousands of people into morally-reformed individuals were never verified, and the changes were simply assumed to be permanent. The Groups' publications used the Proof By Anecdote and Testimonials propaganda techniques, attempting to convince people by overwhelming them with positive testimonial stories. Dr. Herbert Hensley Henson, the Bishop of Durham, wrote in 1933:

      I observe that Groupist literature is to a large extent composed of records of 'life-changing'. These are generally anonymous, and in their circumstances extraordinary. They are commonly presented in picturesque and dramatic language which sometimes reproduces the too-familiar features of popular journalism, and they seem to be designed to bear down opposition by their cumulative effect, and so to coerce the reluctant understanding into acceptance of Groupist claims.   ...   In these records of Groupist activities we are given the successes, but not the failures. Those who have had the best opportunities for watching the working of the new movement are impressed by the latter hardly less than by the former. I am not thinking mainly of those woeful instances, of which the number appears to be disconcertingly large, in which complete nervous and mental collapse followed in the wake of the vehement excitements of Groupism, but rather I have in mind the very large number of those who have been alienated by Groupist methods or who, after yielding themselves to groupist domination, have reacted from it rather calamitously.
      There are no statistics more dubious and more misleading than those of religious conversion, for they are marked by all the defects which can reduce the value of statistics. They are compiled in circumstances highly unfavorable to accuracy. The compilers are always interested persons whose good faith is no guarantee of competence. They are never checked, and in the nature of the case cannot be confirmed. In the highly artificial atmosphere of a 'house party', or in the emotional excitement of a public meeting, when the subtle influence of 'mass-suggestion' is at its height, and there are the strongest inducements bearing on individuals to profess what is so plainly expected and so ardently desired, it cannot be surprising that decisions and experiences alleged in perfect sincerity which none the less may not have been as complete as was supposed, and may not be as permanent as is assumed. These are registered with exultation by those who find in them the Divine sanction of their own spiritual exertions; and they are published to the world without delay.
      The clergy often and justly lament the lapse from communion of the majority of those who have been confirmed. ... These emotional confessions, made in circumstances of great excitement under the pressure of crowd-sentiment, do not wear well.   ...   Enthusiasm has little staying power, but immense self-confidence. 'Life-changing' is no such prompt and easy achievement as Groupists seem to suggest.
      Such and such evil practices may, of course, be made to cease, and such and such pious observances be adopted, but veritas temporis filia, only Time can certify the measure, quality, and permanence of the change of life. Somewhere in his essays Emerson observes that the weak point about good resolutions is the fact that, even while we indulge the luxury of framing them, we know in the background of our minds that the task of carrying them into effect will have to be entrusted to the same old incorrigible law-breaker who has so often betrayed us in the past.
The Oxford Groups; The Charge Delivered At The Third Quadrennial Visitation Of His Diocese Together With An Introduction, Herbert Hensley Henson, D.D., 1933, pages 37-40.

Rev. John Richardson reported much the same thing:

      Nor in a vast number of cases is it safe to assume that the life-changing, for which credit is so confidently claimed, permanent in character. It is notorious that no statistics are more open to suspicion, and none must be more liberally discounted, than those designed to set forth the results of highly organized and intensive efforts of a revival character. In the emotional atmosphere of such gatherings, and under the pressure of "mass suggestion" skilfully and continuously applied, men and women are too easily swept off their feet into acts of surrender and profession that are carefully noted, and receive full publicity, while little is known and less said, of the lapses that so often follow. The credit side of the account is kept with care, while the debit side is blank. There is no reason to believe that this phenomenon has been absent from the evangelistic efforts of the Groups.
      Evidence to that end comes, indeed, from all sides. Mr. R. H. S. Crossman, Fellow of New College, Oxford, writes as follows in Oxford and the Groups (p. 105): "In their recent American tour, the Groups on at least three occasions — Detroit, Louisville, and Phoenix — found the work of conversion far harder in towns where they had previously worked: still more significant, at Louisville, where two years previously hundreds had made their surrender, they found only eleven who had remained in any sense active members."   ...
      It is not too much to say, I think, that under the magnetic power of Dr. Buchman's leadership there has been developed in the Groups an appreciation of the power of publicity, and an astuteness in its use, that the exponents of high-pressure salesmanship might be disposed to envy. It is one of the least appealing characteristics of the Movement, and lies upon its very surface.
The Groups Movement, The Most Rev. John A. Richardson, pages 26-28.
Morehouse Publishing Co., Milwaukee, Wis., 1935.

One Oxford Group member, T. Willard Hunter, did quite a twisty song and dance as he tried to explain away Frank Buchman's habit of grossly exaggerating his successes, and even outright lying:

      What appears to be exaggeration is party due to a stance which Sam Shoemaker noted, "All Frank's geese are swans. It is partly his intense enthusiasm and belief in us which keeps us functioning!"30 Buchman was everlastingly Mr. Positive Thinking and Mr. Possibility Thinking rolled into one. The glass is never half empty, always half full. The next person he met was capable of turning the world upside down by the end of the week. Anyone can recognize there is untold power available to one who operates that way. I expect also that Frank was confident the Almighty would not be too severe if he should occasionally exercise a salesman's license for enthusiasm and stretch a point. Surely he would be forgiven under the rubric of the Congressional cloak rooms where gentlemen agree there are times when one must "rise above principle." It does not negate the impressively solid accomplishments of the work to concede that it was at times inflated with puffery.

30 Harold Begbie, More Twice Born Men, p. 147.

World Changing Through Life Changing: The Story of Frank Buchman and Moral Re-Armament; A Thesis for the Degree of Master of Sacred Theology at Andover Newton Theological School, T. Willard Hunter, 1977, page 172.

That is quite a piece of propaganda. More than half of all of those sentences are lies:

  • "Rise above principle"?
    • Just like an old Congressman who doesn't feel obligated to tell the truth to the voters? What is so gentlemanly about that?
    • And more to the point, what is so "spiritual" about that? Since when is religion supposed to be just like dirty politics?
    • And just how does someone "rise above principle"? Wouldn't that process be better described as "abandoning principles" or "violating principles", or "betraying principles", or "sinking into the cesspool of deceptive politics"?
    • T. Willard Hunter wrote that 'gentlemen agree there are times when one must "rise above principle."'
      What gentlemen? So why was it Frank Buchman's "time when he must rise above principle" and play fast and loose with the facts? What event necessitated that? What end justifies the means?
    • Hunter also used the propaganda trick of "Everybody Knows" in this line: "Anyone can recognize there is untold power available to one who operates that way." Well silly me, I can't recognize it. I don't see quite what "untold" spiritual power comes from dishonesty and exaggeration.
    • And "surely Frank Buchman will be forgiven under the rubric" where we forgive corrupt politicians?
      Huh? What if I don't forgive corrupt politicians? And more to the point, what if God doesn't?

  • Frank Buchman's habit of being far less than "Absolutely Honest" doesn't negate what "impressively solid accomplishments"?

  • T. Willard Hunter's attempted explanation also reveals quite a number of the standard cult characteristics:


What Frank Buchman most clearly exemplified was a narcissistic personality disorder. He was compulsively giddy and happy and bubbling over with joy, exaggerating wildly when he told everyone about what great things he was doing and how wonderful it all was.... Buchman was giddy and happy and frivolous — except when someone irritated him by popping his bubble with a pinprick of honest criticism or an injection of reality, at which time Frank Buchman would explode in rage.

Narcissists are experts at showing off. Everything they do is calculated to make the right impression. Conspicuous consumption is for them what religion is for other people. Narcissists pursue the symbols of wealth, status, and power with a fervor that is almost spiritual. They can talk for hours about objects they own, the great things they've done or are going to do, and the famous people they hang out with. Often, they exaggerate shamelessly...
Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry, Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 130.


Bill Wilson studied Frank Buchman's techniques, and obviously learned his lessons well. Bill used the very same publicity techniques for Alcoholics Anonymous. Wilson also made grandiose public claims of originality — saying that he had discovered a wonderful new cure for alcoholism when he had discovered nothing new at all — and Wilson made grand claims of success when he really had nothing to show but failure. The public was told about purported successes, but never about the many more failures.

Two thirds of the entire Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Book" was and is nothing but such anecdotal stories of A.A. successes, but there isn't a single honest story of an A.A. failure to be found anywhere in there. And we were never told when the so-called "miracles" wore off and the much-publicized successes relapsed and disappeared. Bill Wilson didn't honestly report that — he just silently replaced their stories with more stories from some other people who also claimed that the wonderful, never-fails, A.A. program had saved their lives. You will never learn from official A.A. Council-approved literature that fully 50% of the original first-edition Big Book authors relapsed and returned to a life of drinking.

And today, the Alcoholics Anonymous headquarters is becoming more and more vague about just how many people A.A. is really keeping sober, and what the A.A. success rate really is. On their triennial membership surveys, where they count heads and collect data about people's sobriety, they have even stopped asking critical questions like "what is the A.A. dropout rate", because the results are so bad that they are an embarrassment to the A.A. organization.

I predict that next they will stop asking how many people were coerced or forced into A.A. by the courts, prisons, parole officers, counselors or "treatment programs", because the recent A.A. surveys revealed that the majority of the current membership was forced, in one way or another, to join Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A. is not a friendly "program of attraction" at all — it's a program of steel-fisted coercion where people go to get their slips signed.


Rev. Sam Shoemaker, who was Frank Buchman's right-hand man for twenty years, wrote an article for The Christian Century magazine where he sang the praises of his traveling Oxford Group proselytizing team like this:

All travelers through California make for the Mission Inn, at Riverside. Soon interested in the group, the managers gave us the lowest rate they ever quoted, and a house-party of 500 gathered in mid-February. People came for training, to discover next steps, and took them as thoroughbreds take hurdles. Others came for their first touch with a group. A young wife, appalled at the financial catastrophe which had overtaken her husband almost immediately after their marriage, found a new security better and beyond a security in money; her witness has since resulted in spiritual children and grandchildren. An actor, a dozen clergymen, widows of two Presbyterian missionaries who nursed resentment against God for the loss of their husbands, at least six whole families of modern, prosperous pagans, and also several members on the staff of the inn — all came into new or deeper experiences of a living Christ.
House-Parties Across the Continent, Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., The Christian Century, August 23, 1933, page 1057.

You know, that sounds just like Bill Wilson's standard raps:
  • There is talk of people taking their next steps. Bill talked about Steps a lot.
  • There are women "nursing resentments against God". Bill often raved about resentments, and complained about wives being resentful and jealous of God. (Bill especially couldn't stand resentments when his wife Lois was being angry and resentful because he got drunk, threw temper tantrums, and tore up the house.)
    (And Al-Anon parrots Bill's speech and accuses wives of being resentful, too — a lot.)
  • There is the cultish practice of calling non-members names like "pagans". In A.A. they are called "normies", "flatlanders", "pigeons", and "dry drunks".
  • Likewise, there is the cultish attitude of "We are special — the rules don't apply to us — we get the lowest hotel room price in history because our work is so special."
  • There are cultish claims of having a panacea: A young housewife found "new security better and beyond a security in money..." — Which also implies that the housewife was shallow and limited, mistakenly concerning herself with silly things like money and the physical survival of her family. That reflects You are always wrong.
  • Both the Oxford Group promoters and Bill Wilson habitually used the Proof by Anecdote and testimonials propaganda techniques. They just reeled off a bunch of stories of conversions, as if that was proof of something. They didn't report their failures. And, of course, they never did follow-ups. They just gave us a bunch of hoopla about "hundreds saved; thousands saved" and were silent about the down side. That's also the propaganda technique called "Observational Selection", commonly known as "cherry-picking".
  • Then there is the sponsorship system (mentoring) that arranges everyone in a pyramid with "spiritual children and grandchildren", uplines and downlines.
  • That also of course implies that all new members must go recruit other new members in order to have those "spiritual children".
  • And then both the Oxford Groups and A.A. held out the bait of a promised wonderful "spiritual experience" if you joined their cult and did their practices.

Heck, Bill Wilson didn't invent anything when he started Alcoholics Anonymous. He just copied the Oxford Group in its entirety.



Another common cult characteristic that the Oxford Group Movement displayed is pretty obviously Disturbed Guru, Mentally Ill Leader. In the file "The Funny Spirituality of Bill Wilson and Alcoholics Anonymous", I build a case for Bill Wilson having suffered from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and he doesn't appear to be the only one. There was a fair amount of similarity between the behavior of Frank Buchman and Bill Wilson. Frank Buchman showed a lot of the signs of NPD, too.

We especially have to ask the question, "Why would a man do that? Why would a man act like that? Why would a man behave in such a manner for his entire life?" Frank Buchman's behavior was so extreme that it went way beyond mere vanity or ambition or the desire to live in luxury. It wasn't just a man wanting to be the leader, or wanting to be admired and called 'a man of God'. It wasn't just a man putting on airs, and claiming that he was special, and that God was talking to him all day long.

Specifically, the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association, are:

301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Diagnostic Criteria

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
    Pretty obviously, Frank Buchman thought he was on a mission from God, destined to save the whole world.
    • In 1921, at Cambridge, Frank Buchman was bicycling one night when he imagined that he heard the voice of God saying to him, "I will use you to remake the world." Later, in his room, the thought came to him again and again. Buchman concluded that God was calling him to a great task, and he decided to accept the commission.97
    • Buchman imagined that he talked to God, and that God talked back to him, all of the time.
    • When Buchman claimed that the current guidance that Oxford Group members (like him) were receiving was just as authoritative as the stories in the Bible, he was even putting himself on a level with the Biblical saints and prophets.
    • Buchman expected and even demanded that he be acknowledged as superior — he had to always be lauded as a great spiritual leader, and he considered anyone who dared to disagree with him to be certainly wrong, and even immoral and working for the forces of Evil.
    • And Buchman habitually exaggerated and lied about his achievements, accomplishments, and talents. Everything about Buchman was grandiose.
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
    Yes, like Absolute Love, Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, and Absolute Unselfishness. And he saw himself as the future minister to the world's leaders. He thought his "Movement" was going to take over the whole world.
  3. believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
    Yes, Buchman felt like only associating with millionaires, political leaders, nobility, and royalty, and "spiritual" people who agreed with him about everything, and who would sing his praises unceasingly.
  4. requires excessive admiration
    Obviously true of Frank Buchman. His need for admiration was so extreme that when the London newspaper reporter A. J. Russell wrote a flattering article about Frank Buchman and his Oxford Group "house parties", Buchman mailed copies of it to nearly 10,000 people.124
  5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
    Obviously yes. He demanded total automatic compliance from others. They had to "surrender" to him and obey him without question. And he certainly felt entitled to live a luxurious first-class lifestyle at other people's expense.
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
    Yes. Like all cult leaders, Frank Buchman was extremely exploitative. Buchman didn't care if he wasted other peoples' entire lives, misleading and deceiving them, getting them to work for him for free in the name of God.
  7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
    Obviously true of Buchman. He was one hard-hearted cold fish and he didn't care whom he hurt. And Buchman does not really seem to have cared about their spiritual well-being either. In spite of some decorative jabber about giving people "new or deeper experiences of a living Christ", Buchman actually showed little concern for whether people got into Heaven or remained in the church or even remained believers. Buchman routinely rejected and drove away any and all people who dared to question or criticize him.
  8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
    That sounds familiar.
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
    No question about it.

Associated Features

  • Vulnerability in self-esteem makes individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder very sensitive to "injury" from criticism or defeat. Although they may not show it outwardly, criticism may haunt these individuals and may leave them feeling humiliated, degraded, hollow and empty. They may react with disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack. Such experiences often lead to social withdrawal or an appearance of humility that may mask and protect the grandiosity.
    Extreme intolerance of criticism was one of Frank Buchman's worst characteristics. And yes, he reacted to even a vague hint of criticism with "disdain, rage, or defiant counterattack". As Henry P. van Dusen wrote, "It is significant that Mr. Buchman's career has left a trail of broken and raw relationships, of men and women branded as enemies because they ventured to raise doubt about some element in his programme or the infallibility of his judgement."
  • Interpersonal relations are typically impaired due to problems derived from entitlement, the need for admiration, and the relative disregard for the sensitivities of others.
    Totally true of Frank Buchman — The only lasting interpersonal relationships he had were with grovelling sycophants. He drove everybody else away. And Buchman felt entitled to first class everything because he was "working for God"; he had an extreme need for admiration; and he cruelly disregarded the sensitivities of others.
  • Though overweening ambition and confidence may lead to high achievement, performance may be disrupted due to intolerance of criticism or defeat.
    Buchman was "Mr. Overweening Ambition" personified. He wanted to take over the whole world, but his intolerance of criticism and disregard for the feelings of others brought him even more criticism and opposition.

DSM-IV-TR == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision; Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 2000; pages 658-661.

Also see: DSM-IV == Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition; Published by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC. 1994; pages 658-661.

Also see: Internet Mental Health (http://www.mentalhealth.com/)

And I would add one of Dr. Alexander Lowen's statements:

The tendency to lie, without compunction, is typical of narcissists.
Narcissism, Denial of the True Self, Alexander Lowen, M.D., page 54.

That fits Frank Buchman too.

Narcissism is rarely absent from charismatic leaders. In fact, it may be a necessary component of the extravagant self-esteem that charisma is largely based on.
A Doomsday Reader: Prophets, Predictors, and Hucksters of Salvation, edited by Ted Daniels, page 229.

Even Frank Buchman's faithful follower Garth Lean noticed, in July of 1940,

But Buchman, now as always, was unpredictable [read: unstable]. He shook with rage one day because a cook had once again produced tough meat. The next day he appeared at the kitchen door holding a tiny wild flower for her. 'Here you are,' he said. 'This is "self-heal".'
On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, Garth Lean, pages 294-295.

"There is a gigantic, Olympian quality in F's wrath that is something to be experienced to be believed. It certainly produces change."
On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, Garth Lean, page 292.

Sometimes, not infrequently as time went on, Buchman used to shout at his colleagues. Austin points out that people do sometimes have such tough hides of self-esteem or hypocrisy that it may be the only way to get through, yet admits that 'Frank, especially when in pain, was too violent in his rebuke'. Dr Irene Gates, who could be stern with him, warned him sometime in 1941, after he had dressed down some of his colleagues with a considerable burst of temper, that, if he wished to live, he would have to forego that kind of explosion.
On the Tail of a Comet: The Life of Frank Buchman, Garth Lean, page 470.

(Frank Buchman suffered a very serious, nearly fatal, stroke in 1941. Apparently, such violent screaming temper tantrums really were unhealthy.)

Henry P. van Dusen wrote an analysis of Frank Buchman and his movement for Atlantic Monthly magazine in 1934, and said:

Here we meet another of the most conspicuous marks of the man — his unshakable certitude in his own 'leading.' Never for a fleeting instant or in any possible circumstances is he unsure in speech or action. It makes no difference whether the matter concerns the strategy for winning a continent or the relief of an over-solemn meeting by an injection of humor, the right word to say to impress an official whose favor controls doors of opportunity or the right necktie to wear to win the confidence of a particulary fastidious Eton boy. As a matter of fact, in his view, each of these matters may be equally important; that is why God guides us in the selection of our haberdashery.   ...
      Hence, in part, springs Mr. Buchman's extraordinary authority among his following, an authority not superimposed but gladly accorded. He is always quietly sure he is right. ... Such certainty is possible because Mr. Buchman knows his every thought and action to be immediately determined by the Divine Mind; it is the direct corollary of his belief in Divine Guidance.
Apostle to the Twentieth Century; Frank N. D. Buchman: Founder of the Oxford Group Movement, Henry P. van Dusen, Atlantic Monthly magazine, 154:1-16, July 1934, pages 8-9.

For someone to imagine that he can never be wrong is another delusion of grandeur, and so is the belief that his every thought has been put into his head by God. It was downright insane for Buchman to imagine that God told him which tie to wear. (Remember that the other Buchmanites considered themselves lucky to get one or two "luminous thoughts" during an entire Quiet Hour, but Frank Buchman claimed that he was in constant conscious contact with God.)

In addition, someone who is "Never for a fleeting instant or in any possible circumstances ... unsure in speech or action" is shallow, thoughtless, and impulsive. A thoughtful wise man pauses to consider his actions and ask himself whether his course of action is right and wise and the best thing to do. Someone without any self-doubts whatsoever is a megalomaniac and a narcissist.

And Buchman's followers were guilty of spiritual laziness and spiritual cowardice — they were attracted to someone who claimed to never be wrong because they wanted a guaranteed ticket to Heaven. They wanted to be freed from all doubts and also spared from the bother of having to think for themselves. ("Don't think, just do what Frank says. He's always right.") But Buchman's followers were overlooking the simple fact that just because a man is very convincing does not prove that he is right.

A. J. Russell, one of Frank Buchman's fawning followers, even wrote of Buchman:

      It is impossible to understand Frank at all unless he is thought of as always in God's presence, listening for direction and accepting power, which he says is the normal way for a sane human to live. Frank is an example of the psychologically mature man, thoroughly integrated round the highest relationship possible to man. He does not wander voluntarily in his spiritual life: he goes direct to the Source all of the time, and expects the Source to come to him. This discipline at the heart of the movement means complete freedom. The paradox of Christianity.
      Frank is a child listening to God and obeying Him implicitly, and getting all those around him to do the same. And no one will ever understand this movement who does not accept this as a working hypothesis, whether he believes it or not at the start. After a time he begins to see it is true.
A. J. Russell, writing in For Sinners Only, quoted in Remaking the World, the speeches of Frank Buchman, Frank N. D. Buchman, page 256.

"The normal way for a sane human to live"? How can it be 'normal' when it is also so rare?

And such behavior,
      "He ... expects the Source to come to him... This discipline... complete freedom. The paradox of Christianity."
was not Christianity — it was gross heresy. Nobody is entitled to expect God to come to him and give him infallible advice all day long. That's just another demand for a miracle, and it's also the Pharisical practice of seeking a sign, both of which Jesus condemned.

Even a sympathetic, committed, life-long Buchmanite noticed that Frank Buchman didn't follow his own rules, or practice what he preached:

... it was also clear, at least in accepted theory, that "after faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." [Galatians 3:24]
      Frank himself lived this way. "Freedom of the spirit" was his watchword. He did not make his own morality a personal concern. The four standards were not for him a checklist. His measuring rod was rather his own inner revelation. Since for him there was no human reference point, he was a law unto himself. The king could do no wrong. His own posture was basically antinomian.
World Changing Through Life Changing: The Story of Frank Buchman and Moral Re-Armament; A Thesis for the Degree of Master of Sacred Theology at Andover Newton Theological School, T. Willard Hunter, 1977, pages 126-127.


antinomian

  • 1. "one who maintains the moral law is not binding on Christians under the law of grace," 1645, from M.L. Antinomi, name given to a sect of this sort that arose in Germany in 1535, from Gk. anti- "opposite, against" + nomos "rule, law"

  • 2. Opposed to or denying the fixed meaning or universal applicability of moral law:
    "By raising segregation and racial persecution to the ethical level of law, it puts into practice the antinomian rules of Orwell's world. Evil becomes good, inhumanity is interpreted as charity, egoism as compassion" (Elie Wiesel).


So what were the consequences of living such a "Guided" life?

      Today he is seldom seen except at the most fashionable hotels and on the most expensive liners, with apparently limitless financial resources flowing from mysterious reservoirs.   ...
[Narcissism — he feels entitled to the best of everything.]
Not once or twice, but repeatedly, he has broken with colleagues, surrendered position, income, security, and the certainty of influence, and thrust himself into solitary isolation because he could not endure the temporizing and cowardice and selfishness of conventional Christian leadership.
[Buchman couldn't stand people who wouldn't do things his way. Like the psychiatrists said, "Interpersonal relations are typically impaired due to problems derived from entitlement, the need for admiration, and the relative disregard for the sensitivities of others."]
To-day he and his Movement exude a bouyancy, an optimism, a light-hearted well-being, which many who take the tragedy of their world's life seriously find almost repulsive. But behind the success of to-day lie periods of desolating loneliness and blank failure — failure of plans which were felt to be the dictation of God Himself.
Apostle to the Twentieth Century; Frank N. D. Buchman: Founder of the Oxford Group Movement, Henry P. van Dusen, Atlantic Monthly magazine, 154:1-16, July 1934, pages 9-10.
[You know, that has to be disturbing to a true believer, to see God turn out to be wrong like that...]

      It is reported that the first serious inner crisis in Mr. Buchman's life occurred when a fellow seminary student accused him of ambition. The deliberate selection of a difficult and obscure post for his first ministry was his response to the charge. Apparently the suggestion touched a sensitive point of consciousness. In the years since, Mr. Buchman has often been accused of ambition, of unfairness, of intolerance, of hypersensitiveness to criticism, of self-righteousness, of courting opposition.
[Narcissistic inability to tolerate criticism.]
      Now the line between personal ambition and passionate concern for God's work may be a very narrow one. It is clear that from very early in his career Mr. Buchman has felt himself designated for important tasks, and equipped with gifts adequate to their importance. Moreover, he has been driven by an overmastering sense of urgency and a corresponding impatience with cowardly or half-hearted or conventional measures. He has known God's Will for himself, for the church, and often for others.
[More delusions of grandeur.]
As a result, he has been unable to conceal his contempt for what he believes to be the incomplete dedication which characterizes most Christians, even those in responsible leadership. He has been unable to check a quick disdain for the lumbering and inept and ineffective efforts of most workers within the church.
[Narcissistic "arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes", as well as "the relative disregard for the sensitivities of others."]
He has been unable to stifle sharp resentment at any who might raise questions as to the soundness of his own vision or the wisdom and effectiveness of his methods.
[Narcissistic inability to tolerate criticism.]
      So certain is he of the indispensable importance of that which he knows himself called to do — winning individuals one by one to complete surrender of their lives, and then to the winning of others — that everyone else must be called to precisely the same task. In his view of the Christian enterprise, there is no division of responsibility in this matter; all are required to be 'soul surgeons.' This is the sine qua non of the Christian life. No one — statesman, physician, research scientist, bootblack, bishop — is excused from that primary responsibility. Nor is this all. No one is recognized as really winning souls effectively unless he is doing it in precisely the manner developed by Mr. Buchman.
[Still some more delusions of grandeur — "I'm right and everybody else is wrong. Everyone must follow my lead and do things my way."]
      This is one aspect of the picture. There is another. Not only is Mr. Buchman unsparingly rigorous in his estimate of the effectiveness of others; he will not abide the slightest questioning of his own work or that of his colleagues, except from those fully within the Movement. When queries are raised by outsiders, they are not met with reasoned rebuttal. 'Win your argument and lose your man' is one of his favorite warnings. The best defense is a vigorous attack. The validity of the slightest question is emphatically denied. Moreover, even if it come from a person of wisdom and experience and, as far as the questioner can read his own conscience, it be sincere and sympathetic, it tends to be labeled 'opposition.' On the other hand, honest opposition is labeled 'persecution.' Almost always criticism or doubt or even indifference is attributed to 'sin' on the part of the questioner — perhaps the rationalization of some grave hidden weakness or the sin of jealousy or laziness or cowardice.
[Narcissistic inability to tolerate criticism; lashing out in defiant counterattack.]
      It is easy to understand why Mr. Buchman has always found it exceedingly difficult to work with others except those who fully share his convictions and acknowledge his leadership. There were sharp disagreement and clash in his first position; he resigned, harboring deep resentment against the committee which had vetoed his policies. There were acute difficulties at Hartford Seminary during his tenure there. At various times he has been intimately associated with important Christian leaders and movements as a colleague; almost always the connection has finally been severed when his associates did not completely accept his views or would not fully accede to his plans for their work. It is not clear that these sharp differences always centred on matters of fundamental principle. It is significant that Mr. Buchman's career has left a trail of broken and raw relationships, of men and women branded as enemies because they ventured to raise doubt about some element in his programme or the infallibility of his judgement.
Apostle to the Twentieth Century; Frank N. D. Buchman: Founder of the Oxford Group Movement, Henry P. van Dusen, Atlantic Monthly magazine, 154:1-16, July 1934, pages 10-11.

[Like the psychiatrist said, "performance may be disrupted due to intolerance of criticism or defeat."]

And as harsh as all of that sounds, Henry P. van Dusen was actually writing a balanced, if not sympathetic, analysis of Frank Buchman. Van Dusen also wrote:

I doubt if there is a psychiatrist in the world whose intuitive sensitiveness to spiritual disease can begin to compare with his in acuteness and accuracy. Years of unbroken concentration upon the inmost problems of personal life have furnished him with unique powers of instantaneous and piercing diagnosis.
      [Did you notice that "spiritual disease" phrase? Bill Wilson didn't invent that idea or terminology either. He obviously got that jargon from Frank Buchman and the Oxford Group, too.]
      But to equipment forged by experience is undoubtedly added remarkable inborn aptitude for character discernment. For Mr. Buchman is not only a mystic; he is a psychic as well. Not infrequently, after two sentences of causal conversation with a new acquaintance, he will suggest the presence of secret difficulties which the other had been hiding from his most intimate compansions, or even from himself. When he enters a drawing-room, his rapier insight moves unnoticed from person to person. Within five minutes he has formed his estimate of every person in the room, fastening upon the inner keys to behavior in each person's life -- all the while taking his part fully in the inconsequential patter.   ...
      No one who aims to take the measure of the man can afford to overlook this extraordinary power. Occasionally he badly misses his guess, sometimes with grossly impertinent accusations and unpardonable injustice to people's character; but not often. And, when he feels confident in his diagnosis, he does not hesitate to confront the person with his failing or need, be he a peasant or prelate, statesman or archbishop or Pullman porter, chance travelling companion or one of his closest associates. But, his message does not stop with diagnosis. In every instance, with equal assurance he prescribes the needed remedy -- however obscure or chronic the spiritual malady, however shackling the other's defeat, however jaunty his self-confident exterior.
Apostle to the Twentieth Century; Frank N. D. Buchman: Founder of the Oxford Group Movement, Henry P. van Dusen, Atlantic Monthly magazine, 154:1-16, July 1934, page 8.

So Buchman saw a room full of people as just so many targets to be attacked and denounced as sinners? There is a word for such a person -- predator. As the psychiatrists said, "A narcissist is interpersonally exploitative."

Like the manual on Soul Surgery taught:

      Soon you will be hearing which of Christ's four standards of purity, honesty, love, or unselfishness the other is breaking. Then challenge!
One Thing I Know, A. J. (Arthur James) Russell, 1933, page 202.

I've heard preachers say that what was nice about Jesus Christ was that he looked for, and spoke to, the goodness in people (like how he spoke to the adulteress whom He saved from being stoned to death). Obviously, Frank Buchman looked for and spoke to the bad in people.

And one does not have to be "psychic" to do that. A small inventory of standard denunciations is quite sufficient to humiliate the majority of people because, for the most part, people are pretty much the same. For instance, Frank Buchman could, with a high degree of confidence, accuse most young unmarried people of being too interested in sex — and that was in fact one of Frank Buchman's favorite accusations. (As Buchman's slogan said, "Crows are black the world over.") Peter Howard reported Frank Buchman attacking one young woman:

[Frank Buchman] literally shook with the strength of his feelings. "I may have the wrong details," he said, "but I have the right girl, the right diagnosis and the right cure. You are the girl, the diagnosis is that you are sex mad, the cure is Jesus Christ."
The Confusion of Tongues, Charles W. Ferguson. 1940, page 16.

But Frank Buchman's generic accusations did not always work: "Occasionally he badly misses his guess, sometimes with grossly impertinent accusations and unpardonable injustice to people's character..."

Van Dusen continued:

The tides of history have swung to Mr. Buchman. And through all those years he has never for one moment doubted God's appointed task for him. To which the friend will retort with two questions: 'How came the tides of history to turn in that direction? Why has such strange, almost fanatic, assurance borne such extraordinary fruit?'
Apostle to the Twentieth Century; Frank N. D. Buchman: Founder of the Oxford Group Movement, Henry P. van Dusen, Atlantic Monthly magazine, 154:1-16, July 1934, page 9.

Henry van Dusen wrote that in 1934, but eventually, the "tides of history" turned and went out on Frank Buchman, and his "extraordinary fruit" rotted and smelled like the garbage left on a mud flat at low tide...




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Previous: The Religious Tenets and Doctrines of Buchmanism



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